A Valentine’s Day Card

You can’t say you can’t play.

Huh? I can say whatever I want about myself, can’t I?

Lenny Levine was a great kindergarten teacher. And he ran his class by this one rule.
It means that if another kid comes along, you need to include them in your game.

Ah. You can’t say, “You can’t play.” Two referents for “you.” That’s clearer. But is that it?

That’s it.

Well, so what?

It changes everything.
It puts an emphasis on connection, not exclusivity.
It changes the dynamics of belonging.
It weaves together a foundation that crosses traditional boundaries.

That all sounds good but it changes the game, too, doesn’t it? Some games aren’t expandable.

It’s a bit like giving every kid in the class a Valentine’s Day card.
Some say that it cheapens the sentiment
because it’s not about selection, it’s about inclusion.
I think we’ve got plenty of selection already.

This Valentine’s Day blog by Seth Godin reminds me of Hallmark’s Creative Paradox at least as I remember it, roughly, after 30+ years.

MacKenzie: “My job consists of listening to people’s ideas and saying, ‘That’s great.’ Of encouraging them.”

Interviewer: “But what if the idea isn’t great? Aren’t you afraid of encouraging a bad idea?”

MacKenzie: “Nope. Bad ideas won’t make it. We have plenty of discouragement built into our organizations.”

Yes, we have plenty of selection of all kinds, and plenty of discouragement for self and for others.

But not today. And, if I choose, not tomorrow either.

That’s a great idea.
And yes, you can play too.


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14 Responses to A Valentine’s Day Card

  1. John Whitman says:

    Isabel – dare I say it, but this sounds sort of like something Sock-boy would postulate if he were actually in Canada doing his job as PM.

  2. Ian Hepher says:

    Perfect for the day and the time. I agree, we have plenty of exclusion to be going on with.

  3. A philosophy for a happy life. Inclusion is so much less exhausting, leaving time and energy for other things.

  4. Tom Watson says:

    I remember when I was in elementary school. Boys gave Valentines to all the girls, and girls gave Valentines to all the boys.

    • Jim Taylor says:

      Tom, I seem to remember drawing names out of a hat. We were supposed to make a valentine for that person. Some people baulked, I guess, because occasionally there were students who didn’t get a valentine at all. That must have hurt.
      Jim T

      • Isabel Gibson says:

        Jim – Yes, these organized sharing-and-caring school activities need pretty careful supervision to keep from hurting someone.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Tom – I think we gave selectively. But it’s a long time ago and I wouldn’t swear to it.

      • Tom Watson says:

        Isabel and Jim
        I think we likely gave Valentine cards to everyone so that nobody felt hurt because they didn’t receive one. That must have been the teacher’s rule, I suspect.

        • Isabel Gibson says:

          Tom – Yes, I expect you’re right that it was a teacher’s rule, although some parents may have directed it, too. In any event it’s a sign of a thoughtful approach, asking “What could go wrong?” and moving to intercept it.

  5. Seth’s gift for getting simply to the crux of things never ceases to astonish — and trigger memories of being shut out and of being drawn in. It also reminds me of “Everything I need to know I learned in kindergarten.” Complicated is not necessarily an improvement.

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